The Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State has awarded N50 million in compensation to Ifeanyi Onyekwere, one of the victims of police torture which led to the death of an auto mechanic, Chima Ikwunado in Rivers State in 2019.
"Federal High Court 3, Port Harcourt awards N50m Compensation To Ifeanyi Onywkwere- one of the victims against the police," a source told SaharaReporters on Tuesday.
The death of Ikwunado had sparked an outrage in Rivers State after it was learnt that he was tortured to death by the police officers who had arrested and detained him alongside Onyekwere, Victor Ogbonna, Osaze Friday and Ifeanyi Osuji.
They were all accused of car theft, an allegation that turned out to be false.
The officers were subsequently arrested, dismissed and charged to court.
The owner of the vehicle had said he approached a friend who was a senior Nigerian Air Force officer to accompany him to the station.
“I gave my car to my usual mechanic to fix Air Conditioner on Dec 19, 2019. I called him several times on the 20th and did not get an answer. I decided to visit his shop physically at Ikoku to find out that my car and the mechanic were nowhere to be found.
“I asked fellow mechanics around and one said he saw when the mechanic was driving 'one way' (wrong-way driving) and he suspects that he might have been apprehended by the police. My mind calmed down a bit after hearing this.
“I started visiting police stations in Port Harcourt one after the other, making inquiries until I got to Mile 1 Police Station and I saw my car parked in front of the Eagle Crack Police Division (aka E-Crack). I felt relieved thinking that the ‘police is my friend’, I was totally wrong.
“I presented myself quickly at the front desk to say that the car belongs to me and I want to know the reason it got to this place. I was shocked to be pointed a gun by one of the officers and I was asked to leave before I get shot. Wow…. I wondered what crime I could have committed to present myself as the owner of my car. But I had to leave before I got shot.
“The Air Force commander followed me to the police station on Dec 23, 2019. We met the Commander of E-Crack, I noticed the name on his uniform as Benson. The Air force Commander introduced himself and introduced me as his brother,” he had said.
“Mr. Benson called the IPO (Investigating Police Officer) of the case to come and narrate the story. The IPO explained how the boys jumped into a lady’s compound, broke the glass of the car, used a master key to start the car, broke the gate and drove off.
“That they, the police officers apprehended the boys at the point of sale. That the boys were communicating with the buyer from Aba and that one of the boys has already confessed to the crime.
“After hearing this, at first I was wondering if it was some Nigerian movie the man was narrating or was he talking about my car? The E-Crack Commander now asked the IPO to bring the boy who made the confession.
“The boy was brought in after two minutes limping seriously with smelling wounds. The E-Crack Commander asked the boy to tell the truth that no one would torture him. The boy now started talking by saying that he is only an apprentice under his boss, Chima, that the car belongs to Chima’s customer, that he made the false confession because he was tortured almost to the point of death. At this point, he stretched his arms with handcuffs towards the commander showing him the smelling wounds.”
The car owner narrated that he was able to recover his vehicle from the police but the suspects were never released.
He said he was told that the police had changed the scope of the case from armed robbery to cultism.
The owner of the car said a lawyer reached out to him on January 2, 2020, to inform him that Chima had been killed in custody.
He added, “According to the barrister, as soon as he left the police station, the commander immediately charged the boys to court that same day on the charge of my car being stolen and cultism.
“After hearing this from the barrister, I again thought, the police had released my car to me after verifying that it is my car and I never told them that my car was ever stolen, why did they still charge the boys for my car robbery?
“I later found out the answer which I will say shortly after. As I write this story, the remaining four boys are in prison custody with wounds getting rotten and smelling. Chima, that the police killed is tagged as ‘at large’. The answer to my question came out when the families of the deceased visited the court to see a copy of the charge sheet confirming that the police wrote on it that the owner of the car, which is supposed to me, confirmed to them that his car was stolen as described. I have never made such a statement anywhere. My car was never stolen.”